Letter to the Editor: Current minimum wage serves as a ticket to poverty

At our Ripton Town Meeting last evening, Rep. Peter Conlon did us the service of visiting to bring us up to date on legislative matters. Thank you, Peter. It was much appreciated. Peter mentioned that the effort to raise the minimum wage in Vermont to $15 per hour has been placed on the back burner for now in order to study the effects of that increase. I believe he meant to examine the effects on business and the Vermont economic climate.
I told him that the best way to study the effects of the current minimum wage would be for each legislator to spend a year trying to support his/her family by working minimum wage jobs. I am concerned about this failure of the Legislature to act on raising the minimum wage. Peter conceded that the current minimum wage does not represent a livable income. I think it is clear that the current minimum wage is a poverty wage.
Poverty is co-related to most of our ongoing social and legal problems: criminal activity and imprisonment, school failure, alcoholism, mental and physical limitations, illegal drug dealing and drug use, malnutrition, and domestic violence. Poverty and poor health are inseparably linked. Poverty is not only a perennial problem but a generational curse.
To me, the worst aspect of poverty is the devastating effect it has on children, which I personally witnessed in my 34 years as a public educator. As I have expressed before, the Democratic Party is going to lose its base of support by neglecting to pass legislation that is beneficial to working people.
Consider that we now live in a society that finds it possible to award multi-million-dollar bonuses to the corporate executives who bring our economy to the brink of catastrophe (AIG) and grants outrageous severance payouts to bankers who commit bank fraud (Wells Fargo), while at the same time sacrificing 20 percent of the next generation of children to poverty for the sake of corporate and business profits.
The Democratic Party, if it seriously wishes to remain viable, cannot continue to represent and support the interests of the financial and business sector over the interests of working families and children. In Vermont, most especially, we do not need two Republican Parties.
Millard M. Cox

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